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March 28, 2013 at 7:07 PM
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S&P 500 closes at an all-time high

NEW YORK, March 28 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes rose Thursday, with the Standard and Poor's 500 index reaching an all-time closing high.

The S&P 500 gained 6.43 points, or 0.41 percent, to 1,569.19, pushing past its record close of 1,565.15, a mark reached in Oct. 9, 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average also jumped to a record close, a matter that has become routine over the past two weeks. The DJIA surpassed Tuesday's closing record of 14,559.65, by adding 52.38 points or 0.36 percent to 14,578.54.

The records have analysts wondering if stocks aren't over-valued. But they essentially erase the losses that markets have incurred since the financial meltdown of 2008.

On Thursday, investors kept an eye on developments in Cyprus, where banks opened after 12 days with restrictions on withdrawals to ensure account holders don't overrun the country's troubled banking institutions.

The Kansas City Federal Reserve bank said manufacturing in the district was in contraction, although the pace of contraction had slowed since February.

By close of trading, the tech-oriented Nasdaq composite index added 11 points, 0.34 percent, to 3,267.52.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,898 stocks advanced and 1,137 declined on a volume of 3.2 billion shares traded.

Ten-year U.S. treasury bonds fell 2/32 to yield 1.855 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro rose to $1.2818 from Wednesday's $1.2779. Against the yen, the dollar fell to 94.18 yen from 94.46 yen.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index shed 1.26 percent, 157.83 points, to 12,335.96.

In London, the FTSE 100 index added 0.38 percent, 24.18 points, to 6,411.74.

Coast Guard refers Shell to Justice Dept.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 28 (UPI) -- A Coast Guard official in Alaska said a request has been made for the Justice Department to investigate Shell Oil's failed 2012 arctic drilling efforts.

At a hearing in Anchorage, Alaska, Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo and Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby both said it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

But Ostebo did say the Coast Guard was concerned with "potential Marpol violations," which is short-hand for "Marine Pollution," which would be a violation of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, the newspaper said.

Slaiby said Shell's operations in arctic waters in 2012, "were completed safely and successfully."

"It was while leaving the theater of operations that issues with the Discoverer were identified by the Coast Guard and the Kulluk ran aground," Slaiby said.

The concerns stem from the grounding of the Kulluk drilling rig, which occurred off the coast of Kodiak Island after a New Year's Eve storm.

The rig was being towed to Seattle for maintenance when it ran aground. Shell said the Kulluk departed for Singapore on a dry-tow vessel Wednesday morning for inspection and repairs.

Shell also had trouble with the drilling rig the Noble Discoverer, which the Coast Guard cited for 16 code violations, including a claim that the vessel did not have the capacity to move fast enough in hazardous waters to remain safe.

Shell spent more than $4.5 billion in its arctic drilling and ended up with two partially drilled wells for its investment.

Shell's top executive in charge of arctic drilling and exploration has announced he is retiring, the Daily News said.

The Interior Department has also stepped in, revoking the company's permission to drill in Alaskan waters until it can show it has plans to manage an operation in the rough arctic conditions.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently gave the company a succinct judgment. "Shell screwed up in 2012," he said.

Chicago business barometer throttles back

CHICAGO, March 28 (UPI) -- The Chicago Business Barometer dropped February to March, showing a growth slowdown, the Institute for Supply Management said Thursday.

The index, which covers business conditions in the industrial belt of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, fell 4.4 points to 52.4, pushed by a sharp decline in new orders and production.

Declines were also noted in indexes measuring backlog of orders, inventories, and employment.

The report said the diffuse business barometer fell from an 11-month high in March to 52.4.

Numbers above 50 represent growth but growth was faster in February, when the diffuse index stood at 56.8.

"After a strong start to the year, the Business Barometer was knocked back by steep declines in new orders, production and another disappointing dip in order backlogs," the monthly report said.

The production index dropped from 60.2 to 51.8, the report said. The new orders index fell almost as far, dropping from 60.2 in February to 53 in March.

The employment index, marking the number of employees, fell from 55.7 to 55.1.

The backlog of orders index fell from 50.9, showing slow growth, to 45, showing a contraction.

The report, which is produced by the Institute of Supply Management-Chicago Inc. and Deutsche Borse AG, also noted slight growth in inventories -- at 50.1 -- turned negative with a March reading of 41.

Fourth-quarter GDP revised slightly higher

WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) -- The Commerce Department revised its gross domestic product estimate for the fourth quarter upward Thursday, pegging growth of the U.S. economy at 0.4 percent.

The report released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis represents the third of three estimates released on the country's economic performance for the final quarter of 2012.

The figures started in the negative and, a month ago, were revised to indicate gross domestic product growth of 0.1 percent from the third quarter to the fourth.

The department said non-residential fixed investment rose higher than previously estimated but the new figure "has not changed the general picture of the economy."

Positive contributions came from consumer spending and residential fixed investment. But those contributions were partly offset by negative contributions from private inventory investment, federal government spending and exports, the bureau said.

In the final estimate for the quarter, the department said real non-residential fixed investments rose 13.2 percent in the quarter after declining 1.8 percent in the third quarter. Investment in equipment and software rose 11.8 percent after dropping 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

It isn't clear from the data whether commercial investments indicate businesses planning for growth or investing in overdue projects needed to maintain current levels of production.

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